Most Illinois nursing home attorneys have closely followed the developments in a long-standing legal battle between state officials and disabled rights organizations. The main issue in the legal wrangling involve whether or not the state should be forced to offer alternatives to disabled residents who want to move out of these institutions. Public bodies subsidize most of the care these residents needs, and they usually only offer services for these individuals in traditional nursing homes. However, all of that may soon change.
The Chicago Tribune reported that a proposed settlement to the class-action lawsuit was recently filed submitted to the court on Monday on behalf of local disabled residents. According to the terms of the agreement state officials would offer subsidized apartments to thousands of local residents who are capable of functioning independently outside of the traditional nursing home.
The agreement needs to be approved by the court and a “fairness hearing” must be held which allows comments and objections by interested parties. Disability advocates are already heralding the settlement as an important step forward both for the low-income individuals involved as well as for the general efforts of improving local long-term care and eliminating Illinois nursing home neglect. One attorney working on the case explained how advocates belief that nursing home life fosters dependency which should be avoided if possible. Many adults currently forced to live in these homes will be much better served in the community.
Officials for the Governor’s office explained that they believe the settlement is good for the state, and will not come with any increased financial burdens. They report that other states which have offered subsidized dwellings have actually seen their tax burden for the service decrease. This is in part because federal Medicaid funds may be given to the state for offering the apartments and community housing to the former Illinois nursing home residents.
Talks between the two sides which led to this agreement began with news reports from 2009 that detailed shocking instances of Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect that often took the force of sexual assault, violence, and drug abuse. The revelations shocked many community members who began learning for the first time about the myriad of nursing homes residents in the area who lived every day in entirely unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Some facilities work hard to provide high-quality care to residents. Unfortunately, many residents live in for-profit facilities which are far too often mired by systematic mistreatment. Many local disabled residents at those homes are given little therapy or discharge planning.
Under the terms of the new proposal, these individuals will be evaluated by state-supervised officials to determine their eligibility to be moved out of the nursing homes and into less restrictive settings. The effort will be entirely voluntary, and no resident will be forced to leave who chooses not to. Those who do opt to move will be provided roughly $700 a month in rental assistance as well as up to $4,000 in start up funds to equip and furnish their apartments. They would also be eligible to receive various mental health services, life training skills, and case management assistance.
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